April 29, 2019
Lawyer Veronica Koman has been called a traitor and faced death threats as part of her legal battle to hold Indonesia’s police to account
An Indonesian human rights lawyer is among those taking the Indonesian police to court on behalf of all West Papuans, in an unprecedented civil case over what she claims is the illegal takeover of an activist group’s headquarters.
Veronica Koman is part of a legal coalition bringing the civil suit which is the first of its kind, and although it focuses on one particular incident, is seen as a landmark case in the fight for West Papuan independence from Indonesia.
The case – she is pursing police for more than $100,000 in damages over their raid of an activist group’s headquarters on New Year’s Eve – has come at a personal cost.
Koman, who travels to West Papua to represent those charged with separatism-related crimes, told the Guardian her work has led to abuse and death threats.
At a December rally she and others were pelted with rocks by fellow Indonesians, and she became the specific target of anti-separatist protests, sending her into hiding. “It was pretty rough … people were screaming at me: ‘you traitor, you are funding this separatism’,” she said.
Koman said she used to be “very nationalistic” when she was working as a legal aid officer in Jakarta. But when she learned of the shooting deaths of four schoolchildren by Indonesian authorities in December 2014 she became involved in public demonstrations and met West Papuan independence activists.